|Monday, 11 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 107, 97-09-01
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 107, 1 September 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 FATE OF TAJIK MUFTIThe spiritual leader of Tajikistan's Muslims, Amonullo Negmatzoda, is being held by Rezvon Sadirov and his followers, international media reported. Sadirov is demanding the government release his brother, Bahrom, in return for the Mufti and his two sons. The Sadirov brothers' gang was responsible for taking members of the U.N. observer mission to Tajikistan hostage, once in December 1996 and again last February The government has stressed the need for avoiding violence and has been negotiating with Rezvon's group. However, the scheduled handover of Negmatzoda and his sons did not take place as planned at 12:00 local time on 1 September. But RFE/RL correspondents in Tajikistan report that the Mufti and his sons will be freed later in the day. UN special envoy to Tajikistan, Gerd Merrem, has condemned the Mufti's kidnapping but has emphasized it is not connected with the peace process but is considered a "criminal" action.
 ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER VISITS BAKUBenjamin Netanyahu made a brief stopover in Baku on 29 August on his return from Japan, Turan and Russian agencies reported. Netanyahu met with President Heidar Aliev and with the foreign and economics ministers. Netanyahu told reporters the talks focused on possible deliveries of Azerbaijani oil to Israel, exports of Israeli technology to Azerbaijan, and unspecified international and regional issues. On 30 August, Iranian state radio termed Netanyahu's Baku visit "destabilizing" and accused the Azerbaijani leadership of playing "a dangerous game," Reuters reported.
 CHECHEN PRESIDENT VISITS GEORGIAAslan Maskhadov flew to Tbilisi on 30 August for talks with Eduard Shevardnadze on regional and economic issues, including the Abkhaz conflict, and the Chechen proposals to create a Caucasus security organization similar to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and to build a pipeline for the export of Chechen oil via Georgia, Russian and Western agencies reported. The two presidents also visited the north Georgian town of Akhmeta, which has a sizeable Chechen population. Shevardnadze termed the meeting, which had been postponed at least once, "an important step towards good neighborly relations," while Maskhadov said it "will play a huge role for security in the Caucasus," AFP reported. (See also "Endnote")
 TURKMEN PRESIDENT LEAVES GERMANY ...Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, during his 27-30 August visit to Germany, met with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President Roman Herzog, ITAR- TASS and DPA reported. Niyazov's meetings with the two leaders was largely ceremonial but the Turkmen president's meetings with business leaders proved fruitful. At a meeting with officials of the Mannesmann company, a contract was signed for constructing a plant in Turkmenistan to produce 200, 000 tons yearly of ethylene and polyethylene. The German company "Agrevro" will help with agricultural work on a 10,000 hectare area in Turkmenistan. President Niyazov and his delegation arranged 19 new projects with German partners. The projects are worth an estimated $416 million.
 ...BUT WILL RETURN FOR SURGERYOn 31 August, the day after Saparmurat Niyazov returned from Germany to Turkmenistan, Turkmen television reported Niyazov will return to Germany for heart surgery in September, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Niyazov was examined by German specialists who concluded an operation to restore normal functioning of the coronary-arterial system is necessary. The date and location of the operation has not been made public.
 KAZAKH PRESIDENT IN KUWAITKazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev arrived in Kuwait on 31 August for a two-day visit, ITAR-TASS reported. Kazakh Foreign Minister Kasymjomart Tokayev signed an agreement on cooperation between foreign ministries with Kuwait's Deputy Foreign Minister Suleyman Majid Shahin. Nazarbayev is scheduled to meet with Amir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah and other Kuwaiti officials before traveling on to Bahrain and Oman.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 PLAVSIC, U.S. BLAME BELGRADE FOR BRCKO VIOLENCERepublika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 31 August that persons from Yugoslavia were behind the organized, armed attacks on NATO troops in Brcko last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 1997). Plavsic argued that "to take such irresponsible action there, driving in criminals from Yugoslavia... and then put women and children up front as shields is insane and amoral for any normal man." Observers note that all sides, however, used such tactics during the war. Meanwhile, police loyal to the hard-line leadership around Radovan Karadzic were still in control of the well-guarded police stations in Brcko and Bijeljina on 1 September.
 INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY NOT TO WORK WITH PLAVSIC RIVALSFarrand also said in Banja Luka on 31 August that the international community will keep contact only with Bosnian Serb officials supporting Plavsic. Foreign diplomats had earlier refused to have anything to do with the Pale-based parliament, which she has dissolved. The international community has denied charges from Pale that the foreigners are taking sides and has responded that Plavsic is the Republika Srpska's only elected president and legitimate source of authority. Meanwhile, the Sarajevo-based daily "Vecernje Novine" and the Banja Luka-based "Nezavisne Novine" announced in Sarajevo that they will begin distributing each other's newspapers on 1 September. This is a landmark attempt to break the information barrier between the Croat-Muslim Federation and the Republika Srpska.
 U.S. ENVOY WARNS PALE OF "MOST SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES IMAGINABLE"Robert Gelbard called Karadzic spokesman Momcilo Krajisnik and other hard- line Bosnian Serb leaders "liars" during his visit to Pale on 30 August. The U.S. diplomat dubbed their policies "fascist and totalitarian" and warned the Pale leadership of tough consequences if they continue to defy the international community. Krajisnik responded that the Serbs "do not accept any threats." Some Western diplomats said that Krajisnik shrugged off the protests because only tough actions, and not tough talk, have an effect on the Serbs. Other diplomats argued that Krajisnik is nervous because he did not expect the Western reaction to the violence in Brcko to be so resolute.
 NATO TO TAKE HARD-LINE BOSNIAN SERB MEDIA OFF THE AIR?NATO ambassadors warned in Brussels on 30 August that SFOR will not tolerate further attacks against international personnel. The diplomats added that peacekeepers may silence media that incite violence or oppose the peace process, which observers said is a reference to Radio-TV Pale. Several international diplomats and U.S. lawmakers had earlier called for peacekeepers to shut down especially TV broadcasts from Pale, which, the critics said, openly incite Serbs to attack NATO troops. Meanwhile near Bijeljina, SFOR took over the Udrigovo TV relay station on 31 August. The station had been broadcasting programs from Pale to northeastern Bosnia. And in Doboj, Republika Srpska legislator and journalist Milovan Stankovic has gone on a hunger strike in prison. Hard-liners jailed him after he supported a pro-Plavsic takeover of a local TV transmitter (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 1997).
 IZETBEGOVIC PROMISES TO CATCH MURDERERS OF CROATIAN REFUGEESAlija Izetbegovic, the Muslim representative of the Bosnian joint presidency, demanded in Sarajevo on 31 August that federal and Travnik-area police quickly catch the persons who killed two Croatian returning refugees in Muslim-dominated Travnik the day before. Izetbegovic added that any crime against returning refugees is also a crime against the Dayton peace agreement, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. Croatian political leaders in the Travnik area warned that the murders have become a test case for the troubled Croat-Muslim Federation. The Croatian leaders said there is now reason to doubt the recent pledge by the Travnik authorities that the town is ready to receive 18,000 returning Croats.
 U.N. CRACKS DOWN ON SLAVONIAN FORCED PROSTITUTION RINGU.N. police officials announced in Vukovar on 30 August that they have freed 35 women from eastern European countries as part of a two-month crackdown on mafia-type activities in eastern Slavonia. The U.N. has contacted the women's embassies and made arrangements for those who want to go home to do so. The women had been lured to the area under promises of good jobs but were then forced into prostitution and their passports taken away. This is a familiar pattern involving eastern European women in brothels across much of the continent. U.N. officials said that mafia-type criminals have, moreover, resisted the reintegration of eastern Slavonia into Croatia, which the Mafiosi see as a threat to their economic interests. These involve fuel and cigarette smuggling and stolen cars, as well as prostitution.
 ITALY SETS DEADLINE FOR RETURN OF ALBANIAN REFUGEESAbout 10,000 Albanians who took refugee in Italy during the unrest in March will be sent back by the end of November, "Dita Informacion" reported on 31 August. Italian Defense Minister Beniamino Andreatta said that the refugees would be expelled in a step-by-step approach starting soon, depending on the expiration date of their refugee documents. And in Gjirokaster, the conflict over the appointment of the local prefect and customs officials at the Greek border continues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 1997). The local branch of the Socialist Party claims that a large number of those appointed are corrupt.
 UPDATE ON ALBANIAN ARMS COLLECTIONPolice collected 100,000 illegally held arms as of 30 August, according to Interior Minister Neritan Ceka. Up to 800,000 arms are, however, still in private hands. Ceka accused former President Sali Berisha of having ordered the arming of more than 4,000 of his Democratic Party supporters in March by taking advantage of his position as commander of the armed forces, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. According to "Zeri i Popullit," most of these weapons have since been turned in. Meanwhile, doctors said the health of hunger-striking former parliamentary speaker Pjeter Arbnori is worsening. Prime Minister Fatos Nano and President Rexhep Meidani sent messages to Arbnori, calling on him to end his protest and offered to start a discussion about democratization of the media.
 ROMANIA, RUSSIA TO DISCUSS TREATYRomania and Russia have agreed to relaunch talks about a long-delayed treaty on bilateral relations, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 29 August. The treaty has been blocked by Bucharest's insistence that Moscow denounce the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact made in 1939 between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Under that pact, Romania lost control of territory in what is now Ukraine and Moldova. Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Severin said on 29 August that Bucharest wants to sign a new treaty with Russia as soon as possible after agreement is reached on the text. RFE/RL quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev as saying on 29 August that Russia also is prepared to resume negotiations.
 ROMAN REELECTED AS PARTY HEADRomania's former prime minister, Petre Roman, was reelected as head of the Democratic Party on 30 August during the party's national convention. Roman pledged that his party, a junior partner in the governing coalition of Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea, will continue to support radical economic restructuring -- including the closure of loss-making state industries. But Roman also said his party would criticize what it sees as errors in the application of reforms. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party passed a resolution asking for fair cooperation among the parties that make up the government. The Democratic Party said it will leave the coalition and ask for new elections if its coalition partners attempt to improve their own political profiles at the expense of its allies. The Democratic Party now controls the foreign affairs, defense and transport ministries.
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT TO VISIT CHINAEmil Constantinescu plans to make an official visit to China next week in an attempt to boost ties between the two countries. RFE/RL quotes officials in Bucharest as saying that the visit will take place between 8 and 12 September at the invitation of Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Constantinescu's schedule calls for meetings with Jiang and Prime Minister Li Peng, as well as with businessmen in Hong Kong and the economic zone of Zuhia. Foreign Minister Severin and several Romanian businessmen are expected to join Constantinescu's entourage.
 BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT MARKS 100th DAY IN OFFICEBulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov today marked his 100th day in office by issuing a report to his cabinet on its work to date. Details of the report are to be made public later today. RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reports that former interim Prime Minister Stefan Sofiansky attended the closed cabinet meeting. RFE/RL quotes a recent World Bank report noting progress toward financial stabilization and an improved climate for investment since Kostov's anti-Communist government took office. But the World Bank also says that several economic sectors, including retail trade, have so far failed to show signs of recovery.
[C] END NOTE
 RIVAL MODELS OF CAUCASIAN COOPERATIONby Liz Fuller
Russia's heavy-handed and proprietorial, but ultimately ineffectual, approach to promoting regional cooperation and inter-ethnic harmony in the Caucasus has inspired local leaders to devise alternative strategems for achieving these aims, while circumscribing Russia's influence. The Russian approach is epitomized by the declaration "For Inter-Ethnic Accord, Peace, and Economic and Cultural Cooperation in the Transcaucasus" signed in June 1996 by the presidents of Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The signatories condemn any attempt to sow enmity between either individual nations of the Caucasus, or between the region as a whole and Russia. And they affirm their shared commitment to creating a strong pan-European security system of which the Caucasus is envisaged as a crucial component.
But although numerous regional political figures favor the concept of a pan- Caucasian organization that would unite the three Transcaucasus states plus the North Caucasus republics of the Russian Federation, there is no consensus over whether this organization should focus on political, economic or security issues, or whether several separate bodies should be created to perform different and complementary functions. Predictably, each Caucasus state/republic has expressed interest in those aspect(s ) which meet its particular needs, rather than assessing the merits of each alternative from the point of view of what is likely to benefit the region as a whole.
More crucially, some regional leaders have seized on the concept of pan- Caucasus solidarity as a means of taking advantage of Russia's lack of a comprehensive policy toward the region as a whole. Some Russian observers suspect Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze of conspiring with the Chechens to create an independent Caucasian Federation that would include Chechnya and possibly several other North Caucasus Russian republics. It has even been suggested that Shevardnadze has the backing of the West for such an undertaking. Armenia, on the other hand, which is Moscow's closest regional ally, opposes the exclusion of Russia from any new supra-national regional body.
Several separate models for a pan-Caucasus organization or union are currently under discussion. At a meeting in late June in the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala, of deputies to North and Transcaucasus parliaments, representatives from Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ingushetia and Dagestan informally proposed a pan-Caucasus parliament. Other North Caucasus republics reacted with extreme caution to this suggestion, however, fearing that it would be construed in Moscow as "separatist." The Armenian leadership was likewise said to be "wary" of such an initiative, but Shevardnadze termed it "worthy of attention." As an alternative, or a complement, to such a body, the Georgian parliament has advocated a Caucasian inter-parliamentary assembly. Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev has proposed a pan-Caucasian "consultative council."
Somewhat more audacious (and, from Moscow's viewpoint, more alarming) is the idea tabled by Chechen first deputy prime minister Movladi Udugov for a pan-Caucasus security organization, with its headquarters in Tbilisi, modelled on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This proposal, too, found favor with Shevardnadze, and also with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, although the heads of Azerbaijan's power ministries expressed reservations on the grounds that such a body is superfluous, and that it would create problems in relations between Moscow and the Transcaucasus states. (One Georgian analyst has argued that a pan-Caucasus parliament, inter-parliamentary assembly and security organization are not mutually exclusive concepts, but complementary.) Although Armenia is generally in favor of closer regional cooperation on security issues, a Yerevan journalist close to the country's leadership made it clear that Armenia would only join a hypothetical Organization for Security and Cooperation in the Caucasus if Russia were an equal partner in that organization. Other Armenian commentators have similarly expressed concern that such a security body is intended as a counterweight to Russia.
Armenia and Georgia both agree, however, that closer economic cooperation could serve as the motivating force for overcoming regional conflicts. (Tbilisi is currently trying to wrest concessions from the separatist Abkhaz leadership in return for a share of the transit tariffs from the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil.) The Chechens are reportedly trying to raise funding from Saudi Arabia for a Caucasus-Eurasian Common Market comprising Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Georgia and Turkmenistan.
While these various proposed schemes are both rational and (with the possible exception of the Chechen grandiose economic vision) feasible, they overlook the fact that, at least on paper, supra-national organizations already exist to promote security cooperation (the CIS Collective Security Treaty) and economic cooperation (the Black Sea Economic Cooperation) between Transcaucasus states and Russia. The current search for exclusively Caucasian alternatives shows that the peoples of the region continue to mistrust Russia's motives in the Caucasus and fear a possible resurgence of Russia's influence in the region. Russian President Boris Yeltsin's pronouncement on 20 August that "we need a common Caucasian approach which is to be formulated here, within the [Russian] Security Council" will only fuel these fears, and the search for alternative security mechanisms.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty